James Bevel

James Bevel

James Bevel (b. October 19, 1936) is a civil rights activist who, as the Director of Direct Action and Nonviolent Education of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) initiated, strategized, directed, and developed the tactics for SCLC's three major successes of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement: the Birmingham Children's Crusade, the Selma Right-To-Vote Movement, and the Chicago Open Housing Movement. James Bevel also called for the 1963 March on Washington and initiated and strategized the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, SCLC's two main public gatherings of the era.

From 1960 to 1962, James Bevel worked in the Nashville Student Movement, where he worked on the Nashville Sit-In movement, directed the 1961 Open Theater Movement, chose the riders for the 1961 Nashville student continuation of the Freedom Rides, and initiated and directed the Mississippi Voting Rights Movement. In 1967 he directed the Anti-Vietnam War Movement, and in 1995 co-initiated the Day of Atonment/Million Man March.

In April 2008, James Bevel was convicted in Virginia of unlawful fornication for sexually molesting one of his children, and awaits formal sentencing in mid-October.

Early life

Born in Itta Bena, Mississippi, James Bevel served in the Navy for a time and then attended the American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee from 1957 to 1961. [http://www.etext.org/Politics/LaRouche/larouche.program.03] While attending college, he re-read Leo Tolstoy's "The Kingdom of God is Within You" (which he had first read while in the Navy and which directly led to his honorable discharge) and several of Mohandas Gandhi's books and papers while taking workshops on Gandhian Nonviolence taught by Reverend James Lawson. Bevel also attended workshops at the Highlander Institute taught by its founder, Myles Horton, and with several of Lawson and Horton's other students (Bernard Lafayette, John Lewis, Diane Nash and others) participated in the 1960 Nashville Sit-In Movement.

Civil rights activism

After the success of the Sit-In, James Bevel directed the 1961 Nashville Open Theater Movement, and then coordinating the Nashville students continuation of the 1961 Freedom Ride, which was organized and led by his first wife, Diane Nash. While in jail in Mississippi at the end of the Freedom Rides, Bevel and Lafayette initiated the Mississippi Voting Rights Movement, and stayed in Mississippi to work in what soon became known as the Mississippi Freedom Movement with Nash, Lafayette, and others. After they and others developed the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Bevel, Nash, Lafayette and his wife Colia Lidell opened a project in Selma, Alabama, to assist the work of local organizers like Amelia Boynton.

Then, in 1962, after several years in the Nashville Student Movement, Jim Bevel was invited to meet with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Atlanta, and the two of them agreed to work together on an equal basis on several projects together under the auspices of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Bevel became SCLC's Director of Direct Action and Nonviolent Education, and soon initiated, organized, and directed the 1963 Children's Crusade, which sparked international public outrage over the City of Birmingham, Alabama's use of fire hoses and dogs to stop elementary and high school children from marching to talk to the city's mayor.

During the Birmingham Children's Crusade, President John F. Kennedy asked King to stop involving children in the campaign, and King told Bevel to not use the students anymore. Instead, Bevel went directly to the children and asked them to prepare to take to the highways on a march to Washington to question Kennedy about the nation's segregation. The Kennedy administration, hearing of this plan, asked SCLC's leaders what they would want to see in a comprehensive civil rights bill, which was then written-up, thus ending the need for the children of Birmingham to march to Washington. Shortly thereafter, in August 1963, SCLC participated in what has become known as the March on Washington, an event organized by labor leader A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, who had been the original planners (with A. J. Muste) of the 1941 March on Washington. Just as the "threat" of the children marching along the highway led directly to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the threat of the original march led President Franklin Roosevelt to sign the Fair Employment Act, and the 1941 march was never held.

In September 1963, a bomb at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham killed four young girls attending Sunday School. Bevel responded by proposing the Alabama Right-To-Vote Project, co-wrote the project proposal with Diane Nash, and the two soon moved to Alabama and began to implement the project with Birmingham student activist James Orange. Starting in late 1963 they organized Alabama until, in late 1964, SCLC and King (SCLC and King had opposed and did not work on the Alabama Project) came to Selma to work alongside the ongoing SNCC project, headed at that time by Rev. Prathia Hall and Worth Long (Bernard Lafayette had been its first chairman). The Alabama Project and its SNCC counterpart then became known as the Selma Voting Rights Movement.

The Selma Voting Rights Movement went along with some successes until, on February 16, 1965, a young man, Jimmie Lee Jackson, went with his mother and grandfather to participate in a nightime march led by Reverend C. T. Vivian to free James Orange, who was being held in jail. The lights in the street were turned off, and Jimmie Lee Jackson was shot in the stomach while defending his mother from an attack by the Alabama State Troopers, and died a few days later. When James Bevel heard of the death he called for a Selma to Montgomery march to go talk to Governor George Wallace about the attack in which Jackson was shot. After a crowd of marchers--including SNCC Chairman John Lewis and Amelia Boynton--were bludgeoned and tear-gassed on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on what became known as "Bloody Sunday", hundreds of religious, labor and civic leaders, celebrities and citizens joined the next march. Soon after this event--a ceremonial march to the bridge to pray and turn back--they walked the 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery. Before this final march, President Lyndon Johnson had gone on national television to address a joint session of Congress and demanded that it to pass a comprehensive Voting Rights Act.

Because of the unprecedented success of the 1963-1965 Alabama Project, in 1965 SCLC gave its highest honor--the Rosa Parks Award--to James Bevel and Diane Nash.

In 1966, Bevel chose Chicago as the site of SCLC's long-awaited Northern Campaign, where he strategized and directed the Chicago Open Housing Movement. In 1967 A.J. Muste, David Dellinger, representatives of North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh, and others asked Rev. Bevel to take over the directorship of the Spring Mobilization Against the War in Vietnam. He did so, renamed the organization the National Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam, and strategized and organized the April 15, 1967 march from Central Park to the United Nations Building. It was the largest demonstration in American history to that date. During his speech to the crowd that day, Rev. Bevel called for a larger march in Washington D.C., a plan which evolved into the October 1967 March on the Pentagon.

Bevel, who witnessed Dr. King's assassination on April 4, 1968, reminded SCLC's executive board and staff that evening that King had left "marching orders" that Rev. Ralph Abernathy should take his place as SCLC's Chairman if anything should happen to him. In SCLC's next action, the 1969 Poor People's Campaign, in order to handle any problems which may occur Bevel took on the role of Director of Non-Violent Education, even though he had opposed this campaign from its start.

Later life

After leaving SCLC in 1969, Bevel went on to found the Making of a Man Clinic in 1970 and the Students for Education and Economic Development (SEED) in the early 1980s. He co-initiated the 1995 Day of Atonement/Million Man March in Washington, D.C. [ [http://www.vanderbilt.edu/News/news/jan98/nr4.html Vanderbilt News:Noted civil rights leader to deliver keynote address for King series ] ] , again the largest demonstration in American history as of that date.

Bevel ran as the Republican candidate for Illinois' 7th Congressional District in 1984, and later ran as the vice presidential candidate in 1992 on Lyndon LaRouche's ticket while that perennial candidate was serving a prison sentence for tax fraud. [ [http://www.usatoday.com/news/topstories/2008-04-10-1582164906_x.htm Civil rights leader convicted of incest - USATODAY.com ] ] He engaged in LaRouche seminars on issues like "Is the Anti Defamation League the new KKK?" [ [http://www.larouchepub.com/tv/tlc_programs_1991-1995.html LaRouche Connection Master List 1991-1995 ] ]

One of the campaigns on which Bevel collaborated with the LaRouche organization was a campaign claiming a huge Republican child molestation ring based in Nebraska — the subject of the book "The Franklin Cover-up: Child Abuse, Satanism, and Murder in Nebraska", [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_DeCamp] written by former Nebraska State Senator John De Camp and published in its first edition by the LaRouche organization.

Before his 2008 conviction (see below) James Bevel lived in Washington, D.C. with his current wife Erica Henry. He has been married four times and has 16 children.

Criminal charges

In late May 2007, James Bevel was arrested in Alabama on charges of incest committed sometime between October 1992 and October 1994 in Loudoun County, Virginia — Bevel was living in Leesburg, Virginia at the time, and working with LaRouche's operation, whose international headquarters was a few blocks from Bevel's apartment. The accuser, one of his daughters, was 13-15 years old at the time, and was living with her father in the Leesburg apartment. Three of his other daughters also allege that Bevel sexually abused them. Charged with this unlawful fornication in Virginia, which has no statute of limitations for incest, Bevel pleaded innocent and continues to deny the main accusation of a one-time fornication. His four-day trial in April 2008 included those "bizarre testimony about Bevel's philosophies for eradicating lust, and parents' duties to sexually orient their children". During the trial, the accusing daughter testified that she was repeatedly molested beginning when she was six years old. [http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080410/ap_on_re_us/king_confidant_charged;_ylt=AtJlKKorhaIbee5HuuephAGs0NUE] [ [http://www.myfoxatlanta.com/myfox/pages/News/Detail?contentId=3449876&version=3&locale=EN-US&layoutCode=TSTY&pageId=3.2.1M MyFox Atlanta | Civil Rights Leader Bevel Charged with Incest ] ] [ [http://www.nbc4.com/news/13503426/detail.html?dl=headlineclick Allegations Pour In Against Civil Rights Leader Accused Of Incest - News Story - WRC | Washington ] ]

During the trial prosecutor used as key evidence against Bevel a 2005 police-sting telephone call recorded by the Leesburg, Virginia police without his knowledge. During that 90 minute call, Bevel's daughter asked about him why he had sex with her during her teen years, and she asked him why he wanted her to use a vaginal douche afterwards. Bevel's response to his daughter was that he had no interest in getting her pregnant. Bevel's statements were used against him during the trial after he denied committing sexual acts with his daughter.

On April 10, 2008, after a three-hour deliberation, the jury found Bevel guilty and sentenced him to 15 years in prison and fined him $50,000. After the verdict and sentencing the judge revoked Bevel's bond and he was taken into custody. After the verdict, Bevel claimed that the charges were part of a conspiracy to destroy his reputation, and he added that he might appeal the verdict.Barakat, M. (2008, April 10). [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/10/AR2008041002598.html?tid=informbox Civil rights leader convicted of incest.] "The Washington Post". Retrieved on April 11, 2008.]



*"James L. Bevel, The Strategist of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement", a 1984 paper by Randy Kryn, published with a 1988 addendum by Kryn in Prof. David Garrow's "We Shall Overcome Volume II" (Carlson Pub. Co., 1989)

*"Revision of 1960s Civil Rights Movement History" by Randy Kryn, May, 2000

*"Movement Revision Research Summary Regarding James Bevel", an internet paper by Randy Kryn, October, 2005

*"Advocate of the People's Rights: James Luther Bevel, The Right To Vote Movement", compiled by Helen L. Edmond, 2007 (Lulu.com)

External links

* [http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/biography.asp?bioindex=359&category=civicMakers The History Makers: Rev. James Bevel]
* [http://www.cfm40.org/book/print/44 Bio and discussion]
* [http://www.nbc4.com/news/13503426/detail.html?dl=headlineclick Article about 2007 arrest]
* [http://www.jameslutherbevel.com Jameslutherbevel.com]

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